Uber riders can now share live location updates with cops

Uber has come up with a technology integration feature called “emergency assistance” that aims to provide public safety authorities with real-time actionable data in case of an emergency during a ride.

In the event of an emergency, riders or drivers will be able to share their live location, which shall be updated every four seconds, along with their name and contact details at the swipe of a button on the Uber app with the police.

This will lead to saving critical time by providing potentially life-saving assistance by the police.

Earlier, in case of an emergency, Uber encouraged riders to use the in-app SOS button or the national emergency line 100.

This has now been upgraded with the ‘emergency assistance’ technology.

To start with, Uber has integrated ‘emergency assistance’ with the Hyderabad police.

This has already been taken live in Hyderabad for Uber riders and drivers. Access to this data can help first responders intervene faster where help is needed.

The firm which competes with Softbank-backed Ola plans to expand this integration with other state police departments and take it to 100 cities/towns.

“We are talking to multiple cities for (implementing) this.

“What this requires is the integration between the technology platform of Uber and the police department,” said Shiva Shailendran, director, supply and cities operations, India and South Asia, in an interview.

“The next region where it may go live is Uttar Pradesh. But, you will definitely see this spreading across all our major cities.”

So, how does it work?

The rider or driver can access the safety toolkit by tapping the blue-shield icon.

On reaching the ‘100’ assistance, the user will be prompted with the location and user contact details and will be notified that these details will be shared automatically when they swipe to call 100.

After the user’s “swipe to call”, by default, trip and other contact information will be shared with the police in all cases.

If the user doesn’t want to share their location with the police, they will have an option to turn off the share feature.

In this case, the SOS (distress) signal will not be shared with the control room but the user can still reach out to 100 through their phone.

“This new integration provides us with critical details, such as real-time location and user details that will help us act swiftly and save lives,” said Mahender Reddy (IPS), director general of police, Telangana.

Uber is bringing the new tech integration for safety at a time when the firm is in the news for all the wrong reasons related to the Uber Files report.

In the India context, in one such finding related to a 2014 rape incident, which shook the nation, Uber had blamed it on the country’s ‘flawed’ criminal database.

It also did not take responsibility for its driver, who was accused of the crime.

Also last month, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) pulled up both Uber and Ola on rising complaints of consumer rights violations.

But Shailendran of Uber said that the company has already been working with the Hyderabad police and running the pilot for the safety technology integration for a few months.

He said the new tech integration with the police departments would definitely help to bring in more confidence among consumers in Uber as a platform for safety.

Uber had earlier introduced RideCheck, a dedicated 24X7 safety helpline, share trip with trusted contacts, and two-way call anonymization.

The safety helpline was launched in 2019 in India, in addition to the SOS button.

It provided the user with the access to speak directly to a representative of Uber’s safety team for urgent and non-emergency issues, during a trip.

It is not a replacement for 100 to reach out to the police.

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